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16 Jun

Get help from your historical self

Datum: 2010-06-16 09:50

Do you feel that you’re con­stant­ly lag­ging a lit­tle behind with what you’ve got to do, that you always com­plete what you’re work­ing with at the last moment, that dead­line is always a bit too close??? From time to time I expe­ri­ence this myself and for me it’s both stress­ful and frustrating.

A string of activities

Imag­ine all the tasks you per­form one after anoth­er in a long row. We might pic­ture these as cylin­dri­cal beads with dif­fer­ent lengths on a taut string, since we do most things sequen­tial­ly.?? Also imag­ine that along the string runs a time axis, where your dead­lines are marked. At this point in time you are done with tasks just in time (at best), so the end of each bead is equiv­a­lent to a deadline.

If we think about it, we’re able to con­clude that it prob­a­bly wouldn’t take more time to do each task in advance rather than at the last minute, so we should be able to pull the string of beads a lit­tle bit back in time and still have time to do exact­ly the same things, with the dif­fer­ence that we’re con­stant­ly slight­ly ahead rather than behind.?? As you can see, this is an anal­o­gy that only applies to the tasks where we aren’t depen­dent on oth­er people’s input, whose plan­ning we have no con­trol over. But for most of us there is still a lot we can do inde­pen­dent of oth­er people.

One step ahead

The feel­ing of being one step ahead is fan­tas­tic. To have time left before the dead­line is like breath­ing fresh, oxy­gen rich air and you feel ener­getic and ready for what­ev­er comes up.?? Now you might think: But, it can’t be that easy, to just start doing every­thing ear­li­er? I haven’t exact­ly got spare time and I can bare­ly keep up with what has to be done now or even the things that had to be done yes­ter­day!” No, you’re absolute­ly right. This does not hap­pen auto­mat­i­cal­ly, but we need to start the change by cre­at­ing space, even if it’s only a small space. Sure, it’s an extra effort today, but the rewards will be plen­ti­ful lat­er. If you are doing some­thing in advance today, you will have time to do some­thing else in advance as well on the date you intend­ed to do what you are doing today.

Do this

  1. Pick a task which needs to be com­plet­ed in quite a while, for exam­ple, in a month.
  2. Deter­mine how much space you want to cre­ate to do at least some­thing about the task right now, today. It can be ten min­utes or even as much as half an hour.
  3. Pro­duce the ten min­utes or half an hour you’ve decid­ed upon by giv­ing the task pri­or­i­ty and post­pone a task that’s lag­ging behind already (half an hour more or less might not make much dif­fer­ence), or by say­ing No, unfor­tu­nate­ly, I have to pri­or­i­tize some­thing else” to some­one who asks if you can fix some­thing, or by squeez­ing your lunch break to half the time just for today.
  4. Work with the task dur­ing the time peri­od you have decid­ed to. Allow your­self to actu­al­ly let go of the task when the time runs out, so that you feel you can afford” to start doing things long in advance, since you’ve got con­trol over how much time the task claims from your already tight schedule.
  5. Before you drop the task and con­tin­ue work­ing with today’s urgent things, on your to-do-list, write down a task that reads some­thing like Notice how it feels to ahead of sched­ule be done with that one task which I’ve com­plet­ed well in advance this time” and let the reminder expire the day before the dead­line of the task you’ve chosen.
  6. When that day comes, enjoy. 

A gift to your future self

To do some­thing for your­self in the future is to give your future self a gift. Think about when you open the fold­er of today a Feb­ru­ary morn­ing and find that you already pre­pared both the impor­tant meet­ing agen­da and the mate­r­i­al you need that day, a long time ago. You send a thought of grat­i­tude to who made the effort — your his­tor­i­cal self.

How do you do it?

How do you do to catch up with and regain con­trol over your dead­lines as well as your long-term planning?

Your com­ment is most wel­come (below)!